Voices of Our City Choir on ‘AGT,’: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

AGT Voices of Our City Choir

NBC AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- "Auditions 1" Episode 1501 -- Pictured: Voices of Our City Choir

Tonight marked the premiere of Season 15 of America’s Got Talentand that meant the return of touching performances from people all over the world. One such act tonight was the Voices of Our City Choir from San Diego.

Near the end of a show filled with talent, and also filled with just as many acts who got told no, the choir stood out among the rest, earning the elusive Golden Buzzer from host Terry Crews, meaning they will be sent directly to the live shows instead of competing in the rest of the competition.

Their performance was taped in Pasadena in front of a live audience in early March, and they sang an original song. Watch the entire performance here.

Here’s what you should know about the Voices of Our City Choir:

1. They Were the Subject of a 2018 Documentary

A documentary, titled “The Homeless Chorus Speaks,” aimed to show that there was music on the streets, and displayed that even though people may not have homes, they still have dreams and aspirations. 

The documentary, produced by Susan Polis Schutz, showcased 14 homeless members of the choir. It included women who have been abused and others who have battled addictions. Each of the members discussed their backgrounds and shared why they are homeless. They also shared their hopes and dreams. 

“While singing inspirational songs such as ‘Over the Rainbow,’ ‘We are Family,’ etc., their voices soar, and the harsh realities of the street evaporate if only for an hour,” the website reads. 

The documentary is available to view online

2. Their First Public Concert Was Just Four Years Ago 

According to Times of San Diego, the first public concert by the Voices of Our City Choir was just four years ago. Following the concert, the original 17 members were ticketed for sleeping on the street, and one even went to jail. 

Since then, they have come a long way and have performed all over San Diego including with the Voices San Diego Symphony on The Bay and in the Summer in the City Music Festival in 2019. 

Their performance on America’s Got Talent was filmed in March. 

3. Their Goal Is to Help San Diego’s Homeless Population

According to the Voices of Our City website, their goal is to “Help San Diego’s unsheltered neighbors reconnect with hope and possibility through the healing power of music, individualized and intensive case management and advocacy.” 

They have helped more than 50 people move from homelessness to housing within just three years, and they have plans to help many more through music. 

Their community welcomes members of the unsheltered or homeless community as well as those who are recently sheltered but near the poverty line and in fear of returning to homelessness. They also help housed members of society who want to help others and be part of the solution. 

The Members Are Watching Themselves Perform From the San Diego Convention Center

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, there are about a half dozen members who will be watching themselves perform on the season premiere of America’s Got Talent from the temporary homeless shelter at the San Diego Convention Center. 

“When I learned we had an opportunity to be on it, I thought, ‘This can’t be real,’” said Juan Campbell, a 56-year-old who has been a member of the choir since 2016. “And when I was on it, I thought, ‘This can’t be real.’ It’s an experience I can’t explain.” 

He has been housed for a month at the time of writing, but the outlet reports that other members of the choir are still without a shelter or home. 

5. The Choir Was Founded by Steph Johnson and Nina Leilani Deering 

In 2016, the Voices of Our City choir was co-founded by guitarist and singer Steph Johnson and Nina Leilani Deering.

Campbell told the San Diego Union-Tribune that he remembered Johnson approaching his tent and telling him about a choir she was putting together.

When it came to America’s Got Talent, Johnson said they gave it their all when auditioning.

“We gave it everything,” Johnson said. “Leading up to the audition, during the audition, after the audition, they were just crying and happy, and they’re still overwhelmed.”

Tune into America’s Got Talent this season to see how far the choir makes it.

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